Round Four of the IRC 2012 saw Hermann Gassner Jr and Klaus Wicha claiming an impressive ninth-place finish after a disastrous start...
Since finishing fifth in the IRC 2012 season-opener in Portugal, Germany's Red Bull-backed Gassner has been dogged by bad luck. He crashed out of the Rally Islas Canaries in mid-March and yesterday suffered more problems in the Rally Corsica.
A faulty valve in special stage one meant the Skoda Fabia duo of Gassner and Wicha were out of the running almost immediately. They then suffered another tyre failure in special stage two, which left them without any further replacements.
But a faultless drive from the plucky Bavarian saw him and Wicha claw their way back to ninth. Here's what he had to say about the rally:
"We saw the valve was torn to shreds while checking the air pressure after SS1. Afterwards, we had a tyre failure on SS2 and subsequently no more spare tyres on board. We had to complete SS3 very cautiously and the overall time loss amounted to almost three minutes. We continue to be pursued by misfortune…"
The 2009 German Rally Champion made a strong start in his Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000. He outdistanced Germany’s Sepp Wiegand and Austria’s Andreas Aigner, and was faster than both Wiegand and Aigner in all stages from SS4 on. But Gassner Jr was forced into a cautious drive and lost around one and a half seconds per stage kilometre to the best IRC drivers.
Gassner Jr managed to climb from 25th to 11th on a trouble-free second day, even after losing a great stage time after a car went up in flames on the circuit.
By the final day Gassner Jr had found his rhythm and he closed in on the top times. Following SS11, the young Bavarian fought his way into the top ten for the first time since SS1. He was left to rue those early problems but the German can be pleased with his impressive comeback.
“It’s a real shame that I dropped way back so early," he said. "Your entire strategy gets seriously messed up. From SS4 onwards, though, things then got better stage by stage. It surely was the most difficult tarmac rally of my career and, with a few exceptions, I can be satisfied with my performance.”
BRR team principal Raimund Baumschlager: “Hermann doesn’t seem to be able to shake off his bad luck. Following his early problems he got better and better in Corsica and certainly would've closed in on the top five without his loss of time. On today’s final leg he was already much closer as far as times were concerned."
Victory in Corsica eventually went to Dani Sordo in the John Cooper Mini Works S2000.